New Works from Old Ideas

This assemblage is in a 16″ x 20″ frame and has hung in the guest rooms of our homes since shortly after we moved here. I probably put it together in 1994 or 1995 after walking the property and finding this irresistible piece of bark with tracking marks on the inner side. I wondered if it could be a language and perhaps a message for something.

It is a pitiful photo as I just took it through the glass from several feet away. But I remember thinking that the message could have been for moths. Maybe they were to get in formation and go somewhere together. I stitched fancy stitches as paths with my sewing machine using gold thread and twined together grasses and sticks with fine brass wire. All of it was mounted on a heavy tapa cloth paper sheet and attached to a larger lokta paper on board.

I loved this piece and I think I still do. The moths came from a printed tissue paper used for wrapping gifts. I bought a couple sheets of it because I really liked the colors and soft details of the moths. I carefully cut out one of each, and then some, to position around the bark message. Then I added the other bits because it seemed like a good idea.

It is more than twenty years later and I am still drawn to things in the natural world. While working yesterday on new pieces for an exhibition next spring I remembered this piece and thought of the similarities. Here is a photo of one of the new pieces…..and it actually is in the same size frame.

Even the palette is similar. In this “new” work I am using actual bits and pieces from Nature that have been altered in some way, contact prints from gathered plants and etchings or wood engravings of other gathered plants done on my press in the studio. I like fitting the things together, arranging them on a fixed size surface. The ones I have completed so far remind me of pieced quilts. The sewing machine has been used in the attaching of one piece to another.

The first two of these are heavily influenced by the Australian Travel piece from a few weeks ago. It takes so much cutting and piecing that even the bits cut off might be just the right thing for the next one, or the one after that.

I don’t think I ever stopped doing this…fitting bits together. Here is one of the HomeWorks done for John C Cambpell Craft Shop a few years ago.

And these were influenced by the Curiosity Cabinet series.

And all of these had old collographs I did in undergraduate school as background “wall papers”. There is only one left that I keep with the Expedition of Elsewhere: the Evidence as part of my artist statement. And that whole exhibition was based on discoveries in the natural world.

And more recently these that sold through the Craft Shop as well after being framed in shadow boxes and “landscaped”.

Back in the eighties at Arrowmont a friend and I thought we should try exchanging materials. She used colored plastic covered telephone wires and I used lots of gathered plant materials. We did not last an hour before trading back. Each of us totally incapable of working with such foreign materials. Once in our hands the other’s material was seen as limiting our access to whatever we wanted to say. It didn’t work. I ended up twining a small basket in bright colors with buttons of all things on the ends of the spokes. I made her work with her materials. She just soaked my sticks and grasses, got offended by the smell and feel of them and gave them back.

I am not sure we can escape from what our hands want to touch.

Anywhere that is where I am now. I am going off to lunch, then back to these little fellows that should benefit Planned Parenthood in a time of angry, ignorant men making choices for women’s rights.